Thailand is famed for hosting some of the best tropical islands in the world. Most are blessed with clean white-sand beaches, clear blue waters, protected bays and coral reefs, with even the most well-known, like Phuket and Samui, still harboring a few “undiscovered” spots.
Within Thailand’s vast bodies of water, there are thousands of islands you’ve likely never heard of – many uninhabited and most undeveloped. Among them are a handful that straddle the line between untouched and touristic; known, but still well off the trodden path.
Here’s our pick of the crop, perfect for your next secluded beach holiday in Asia.
The picture-perfect Koh Kood
This small island in the Chang Archipelago, Koh Kood is located off the coast of Trat Province, around a five-hour drive from Bangkok on the eastern side of the Thai Gulf.
Koh Chang is the largest of this archipelago and the most popular, and Koh Kood is an hour ferry-ride from its southernmost point, and there are a number of ferry services direct from the mainland.
Koh Kood is notable for its picture-perfect beaches – almost too idyllic to believe. The water is clear and bright blue, and unlike many Thai beaches, it’s sandy underfoot rather than rocky or full of sharp corals.
There’s no transport on the island, but part of that fun, ‘cast-away’ vibe is getting to explore beaches on foot or getting lost down muddy trails on your scooter. In any case, the locals are always keen to help out travelers and some resorts offer songthaew transfers.
Koh Kood shares the same weather patterns as Koh Chang, that is: very rainy in the monsoon season. November to April are the driest months, though shoulder-season travel (mid-october or May-June) rewards with far fewer tourists. To be sure to choose the right travel period, please check when is the best time to visit Thailand.
The Laid-back Koh Jum
Picturesque Koh Jum remains largely unspoilt which is surprising considering its close proximity to Krabi and its superb west facing beach.
It’s a fantastically laid-back place with three villages supported by rubber tree plantations, a handful of excellent accommodation options and the friendliest locals imaginable.
Pretty much all of the accommodation on Koh Jum is on its western side looking out to Koh Phi Phi. The sunsets here are legendary and the waters clear and calm, making Koh Jum ideal for families.
There’s plenty of marine life to be found just offshore and even in high-season the beaches are pretty much deserted. The island also offers wonder value for money; boat trips can be arranged at a fraction of the cost of neighboring islands like Koh Lanta and Phi Phi and the fresh seafood served in the beach-side restaurants won’t break the bank.
Aside from exploring the villages and lazing on the beach, there’s not a whole lot to do, which is exactly why we love Jum!
Koh Yao Noi, away from the crowds
If you’re after a truly relaxing break, away from the tourist crowds and party scenes, Koh Yao Noi delivers. Surrounded by the beautiful blue waters of Phang Nga Bay, Koh Yao Noi is reached via a 30-minute speedboat ride from either Phuket or Krabi.
With pristine tropical forests, clean shallow bays and limestone karst cliffs jutting out of the water in the distance, this is one of Thailand’s most picturesque retreats. The island’s community comprises of mainly local Muslim families, and the vibe here is chilled-out and environmentally low-impact.
A popular place for yoga retreats and with an excellent choice of restaurants, Koh Yao Noi could be the best island in Thailand you’ve been searching for.
Koh Phayam for the wide beaches
This little island close to the Myanmar border has magically resisted falling into any of the pitfalls of popularity. A 45-minute speedboat journey from Ranong pier, Koh Phayam is characterized by long, wide beaches, a windswept coastline, cashew plantations and thick interior vegetation.
There is the odd upmarket accommodation option on the island, but for the most part its beach bungalows with electricity limited to the evenings.
Koh Phayam’s main beaches are located on the western side of the island and like Koh Jum, the sunsets here can be extraordinary and this is particularly true at Buffalo Bay, known locally as Ao Kwai.
Here as the sun disappears into the ocean, the sky can resemble a patchwork of oranges, purples and pinks, all reflecting off the ocean, painting an unforgettable picture.
With just the one village and a handful of restaurants and bars, if you’re seeking serenity, then this is the island paradise for you.
Koh Kradan for the serenity
A popular choice for honeymooners, this tiny island in the Trang Archipelago is a sliver of land (gradaan is Thai for plank) lying to the south-west of Koh Mook. Another picture-perfect island along the Andaman Coast, Kradan has one stunning beach, turquoise seas and offers wonderful views out to the limestone casts jutting out from the sea.
Koh Kradan is an excellent choice for snorkeling due to the huge reef situated right off the sure on the southern part of the island, providing some of the best snorkeling accessible from a beach in all of Thailand.
Besides snorkeling and walking the sandbanks at low-tide there is very little to do here and Kradan’s allure is precisely in its deserted-island ambiance and spectacular scenery. Just find a hammock, get out your book and enjoy the serenity.
Exploring Thailand’s lesser-known pockets can be so much more rewarding than sticking solely to more popular places, if not for the cost then for authenticity and meaningful cultural exchange.